Thomas, J., West, B., and Huff, S., "Effect of Air Filter Condition on Diesel Vehicle Fuel Economy," SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-0311, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-0311.
Proper maintenance can help vehicles perform as designed, positively affecting fuel economy, emissions, and overall driveability. This paper addresses the issue of whether air filter replacement improves fuel economy. Described are measured results for increasing air filter pressure drop in turbocharged diesel-engine-powered vehicles, with primary focus on changes in vehicle fuel economy but also including emissions and performance. Older studies of carbureted gasoline vehicles have indicated that replacing a clogged or dirty air filter can improve vehicle fuel economy and, conversely, that a dirty air filter can be significantly detrimental to fuel economy. In contrast, a recent study showed that the fuel economy of modern gasoline vehicles is virtually unaffected by filter clogging due to the closed loop control and throttled operation of these engines. Because modern diesel engines operate without throttling (or with minimal throttling), a different result could be anticipated. The effects of clogged air filters on the fuel economy, acceleration, and emissions of three late model turbocharged diesel-powered vehicles were examined. The vehicles were powered by turbocharged diesel engines with different displacements and engine designs. The results reveal rather low sensitivity of these modern diesel vehicles to air filter condition.